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The Girl-Fish

"There is no danger if you will only follow my counsel. First, you must return to earth and go up to the top of a high mountain, where the giant has built his castle. You'll find him sitting on the steps weeping for his daughter, who has just died, while my husband, who had been a prince but is now king of the land, was away hunting. At the end, she sent my crown to her father by a faithful servant. But I warn you to be careful, for if he sees you he may kill you. Therefore I will give you the power to change yourself into any animal creature that may help you best. You have only to strike your forehead, and call out the name of the animal you wish to be. Mind you, you may not become human or a magical creature, but you may choose any animal of the forest, field or stream.

This time the journey to land seemed much shorter than before, and when once the little fish reached the shore she struck her forehead sharply with her tail and cried, "A deer, that's what I'd like to be!"

In a moment the small slimy body disappeared, and in its place stood a beautiful beast with soft fur and slender legs, quivering with longing to be gone. Throwing back her head and snuffling the air, she broke into a run, leaping easily over the rivers and walls that stood in her way.

It happened that the king's son had been hunting since daybreak, but had killed nothing, and when the deer crossed his path as he was resting under a tree, he determined to have her. He flung himself on his horse, which went like the wind, and as the prince had often hunted in the forest before, and knew all the short cuts, he at last came up with the panting beast.

"By your favor let me do, and do not kill me," said the deer, turning to the prince with tears in her eyes, "for I have far to run and much to do." And as the prince, struck dumb with surprise, only looked at her, the deer cleared the next wall and was soon out of sight.

"That can't really be a deer," thought the prince to himself, reining in his horse and not attempting to follow her.

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Category: Nigerian folktales
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